25 hours 57
minutes 20 seconds - Passing all Stations
Tests of passenger
speed and endurance are no longer recorded or recognized by New
York City Transit, but back in 1966 it was a factoid on the back
of a New York subway map that inspired
MIT student Peter Samson. He read about a "Flushing
Youth" who rode the entire system on a single token and
Samson decided to cure spring break boredom by using the computer
in the Artificial Intelligence lab to determine the optimal route
through the system.
Lacking access to data that is
more readily available today, Samson estimated that it would take
one minute per station, plus one-half minute per stop, plus five
minutes to cross the East River, plus one minute to change
platforms, plus five minutes (in the daytime) for a train to
come. He also had a function to find a minimum-transfer path
from any station to any other. At the same time he worked
out (by hand) a route based on all the subway lines shown on the
map. His simulation of the route through the system produced
a rough estimate of 25 1/2 hours.
A major complication in planning
the route was that certain lines only ran at certain hours.
For example, there was a section of line used by the Rockaway
Shuttle only between midnight and 4 a.m. To get these
details required visits to the Transit Authority
headquarters. These visits aroused the interest of the TAís
public relations people, who spread the word to newspapers and
At 6:30 a.m. on March 31, 1966,
they started off to the Pacific Street station in Brooklyn to
commence the run. Why Pacific Street? A guy who lived
in that neighborhood was supposed to join them there, but he didnít.
Their party was six in number: Samson, George Mitchell, Andy
Jennings, Jeff Dwork, Dave Anderson and Dick Gruen. Gruen
kept a log, which started as follows:
were various embarrassments. Samson got left behind once and
everyone else had to wait at the next transfer point since he had
the route map. Later (after copies of the route were passed
around) Mitchell, Anderson, and Jennings got left behind in a menís
room; then they got off at the wrong (dead end) platform of the
145th StreetĖLenox Avenue station and had to pay extra fares to
were gratifying moments too. TA policemen at South Ferry and
at Coney Island asked for our schedules, and were seen radioing
them in to HQ. A New York Post reporter joined them for a
while on the A train to 205th Street, getting our candid responses
to questions such as "What do you have against the
subways?" and "Have you picked up any girls?"
Finally, about half an hour later than the initial prediction,
they pulled into a platform at Pelham Bay Park that was jammed
full of reporters and cameramen.
came a dimly-remembered series of photos and interviews, followed
a lunch on the TA and a very long nap.
to improve on their time, they decided on an entirely
computer-directed run. On April 19, 1967 they made the
attempt with George Mitchell and Andy Jennings riding the trains
and three persons were at the Data Center at M.I.T. to re-direct
the riders based on the progress they were making. There was
also a group of volunteers throughout the city who would convey
information to and from the two riders at various points in their
trip. Their plan may have been a little too complex as a
series of mishaps including a computer crash resulted in an
improvement of only 7 minutes from their attempt one year before.
The publicity they
generated by their first run set off an underground craze that
made the late 1960s the Golden Age of subway races. Dozens of
competitors, mostly groups of adolescent males, tried their geeky
best to claim the record.
Scans and content
from the Amateur
New York Subway Riding Committee